Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hiking to Mesa Arch - Canyonlands National Park

View from Mesa Arch - Canyonlands National Park

On our half-day visit to the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park, we stopped to hike the Mesa Arch loop trail.  This easy trail is only .5 miles in length, and has an elevation gain of 100 feet.  We hiked the loop in about 35 minutes, which included plenty of time for taking photos.

Mesa Arch Trail

The Mesa Arch trail is about 6 miles from the visitor's center, and there is a parking lot at the trailhead.  The trail is well-marked.  We started on the right-hand side of the loop, as did many other hikers.  Later, we noticed the trail guide suggested starting from the left side of the loop, which may be a better choice since there are interpretive signs along the way.

View from the trail to Mesa Arch

The trail is mostly dirt, but does cross stretches of slick rock. Cairns mark your way as the trail winds gently over the Navajo sandstone layers.

Slick rock near the Mesa Arch trail

We were almost to the arch before we saw it. The arch has formed in the white layer of Navajo sandstone and hangs precariously over a cliff.  Be advised that park policies forbid climbing on the arch.  Despite this, some people scrambled to the top while we were there. Besides being dangerous, it also interferes with taking photos!

Mesa Arch - Canyonlands National Park

While climbing on the arch is forbidden, you can walk right up to the edge and see a spectacular view of Canyonlands beneath the arch's expanse.  There are no fences or guardrails here, so use common sense when approaching the cliff area.  The drop off from below the arch is about 500 feet.  As you look across Canyonlands, however, the elevation drops are even greater.

View of Canyonlands from Mesa Arch

When the loop trail reaches the arch, it affords wonderful views of Canyonlands and the Island in the Sky area.  The LaSal mountains are 35 east of the arch, and we could see the peaks in the distance, still capped with snow.

View under Mesa Arch - Canyonlands National Park

If you have limited time in Canyonlands as we did, visit the scenic overlooks, and take 30 minutes to hike the loop to Mesa Arch.  This is an easy trail, and well worth your time.  On a sunny day, wear sunscreen and take water with you.  Beware of lightning on stormy days.  This arch is high atop an exposed mesa.  There are no facilities at the trailhead.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this hike- so gorgeous. Just wish those knuckleheads would have obeyed the rules and stayed off the arch!